LAFAYETTE — When the Mountaineers forced the Ragin’ Cajuns to make a long climb, UL-Lafayette used several big steps to reach the summit first.
The Cajuns women’s basketball team trailed Appalachian State 57-44 with seven minutes remaining in a Thursday night Sun Belt Conference contest at the Cajundome before closing on a 26-9 run to take a 70-66 victory.
“We didn’t guard (defensively) in the first half,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “But we stayed with it. We missed a layup to tie it and then we get a steal to tie it. The kids deserved that win.”
Sophomore guard Jaylyn Gordon enabled the Cajuns to even the score at 61-61 when she connected on a jumper with 1:32 left. The Mountaineers faced a melting shot clock on their ensuing possession when Katie Mallow misfired on a jumper of her own. Cajun guard Robbie Brown raced upcourt and located Keke Veal on a pass that resulted in a layup, a foul and a 3-point play to put the Cajuns on top for good.
“That was a very small window on that pass,” Brown said. “I think the ball still got tipped a little. Keke was ready and looking for the ball the whole way.”
When Appalachian State lost the ball the next time down the court, the Mountaineers were forced to foul. Gordon converted a pair of free throws to make it a two-possession game. The Mountaineers later closed the gap to two points when Peggy Smith banked in a 3-pointer with four seconds left. However, Brown swished a pair of free throws to account for the final margin.
“We just have to play through (rough spots), keep shooting and play hard,” Gordon said.
The Mountaineers climbed ahead by as much as 14 points in the opening half when KeKe Cooper scored on a layup with 7:30 remaining to put the visiting team on top 26-12.
The Ragin Cajuns’ called on their defense and managed to hold the Mountaineers scoreless for the next — minutes. Guard Jaylyn Gordon converted an Appalachian State turnover into a layup to kick off an 8-0 run that helped the Cajuns close the gap. Freshman Cienna Rodriguez stepped into a base-line jumper and canned that effort to make the score 26-20 at the 2:30 mark.
The Mountaineers carried a 30-22 advantage into the intermission. The Cajuns entered the contest ranked fifth in the nation in turnover margin, having forced an average of 7.1 more turnovers per game than their opponents. The Mountaineers made it through the first 20 minutes with seven turnovers compared to the Cajuns’ eight. “They (the Mountaineers) were very patient, they moved the ball, they cut hard and they got into seams,” Brodhead said.
Gordon finished with 22 points to lead four Cajuns in double figures. Brown and Simone Fields each had 12 points. Kia Wilridge chipped in 10 points before she fouled out with 2:33 left. Louisiana-Lafayette improved to 15-6 and 7-5 in the SBC with the win. Bria Carter had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Mountaineers, who dropped to 10-10, 5-6.
The Cajuns will wrap up their two-game homestand Saturday when they tangle with Texas-Arlington at 3:15 in the second half of a doubleheader following the men’s contest.